Ohlone Monitor

Photographer captures small town images

Roelle Balan, Staff Writer

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Ohlone photography teacher Paul Mueller wanted to capture a small town in photographs. He thought of Crestone, Colorado, because his friend moved there for a job as a cook.

The town was very small — about 1,000 people live there. Mueller said he wanted to take photos of a small town because it offered an opportunity to get to know the people in the photos better.

“The small size of the population meant that I’d have a chance to talk with people in a way that might be more authentic than the brief interactions I usually have in a larger city,” Mueller said.

Some of the photos he took in Crestone are on exhibit at the Louie Meager Art Gallery through Dec. 6 in the Smith Center on Ohlone's Fremont campus.

Mueller said trust needs to be established when taking a picture of a person.

“Trust was essential because a portrait is always a collaboration between the photographer and the subject, and without trust the photos would likely seem shallow or false,” Mueller said.

Mueller used a Mamiya 7 Rangefinder, a 6×7 medium format film camera for this project. This type of film is expensive, because he only has about 10 frames per roll. He did not use flash and he said the shutter was very quiet. He has been teaching at Ohlone since 2004.

Mueller made three trips to Crestone from 2014 to 2015. He walked around town and introduced himself as a photographer. Eventually he met a woman who gave him phone numbers to people in town that she knew. Fortunately, people were really open to Mueller.

“Many people invited me into their homes and allowed me to shadow them around for a while. They were incredibly generous,” Mueller said.

Mueller wants people to form their own opinions when interpreting his photographs. “I’m trying to depict something that seems authentic and worth looking at. The best photos make us more curious. A good photo can give hints about possible narratives, but it’s the viewer who completes those stories by bringing his or her own experience to the viewing process,” Mueller said.  

Dina Rubiolo, the Louie Meager Art Gallery director and a teacher at Ohlone, said, “The photographs are meticulously composed with all aspects of the frame thoughtfully considered. However, with close observation, the patient viewer is rewarded as we discover subtle and evocative clues, revealing a richness of common humanity.”

Mueller’s art is on display at the Louie Meager Art Gallery inside the Smith Center at Ohlone’s Fremont campus.

His other photography projects can be found at


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Photographer captures small town images